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Bay Area grocery shopping rant - is something missing?

I visited Sacramento and Davis a couple weekends ago, and made a stop at one of the Nugget Markets in Davis. It made me realize that the Bay Area grocery shopping scene is missing something.

What I liked about Nugget is that it's big and inviting, and seems to be pretty high quality but at the same time would work great for everyday shopping, not pretentious or overly "politically-correct" like Whole Foods and Andronico's. Here in the Bay Area, if you want that kind of quality, WF and Andronico's are your main choices, but both are clearly geared towards a different market (the rich? the organic/health-food police? those who are entertaining guests? People who would pay $9 for a bag of salted caramels?). The alternative is the lower tier of depressing old Luckys and Safeways.

Does anyone else agree that places like Nugget represent something missing in the Bay Area? If so, is there a reason for this? Or can anyone name a local store that's a legitimate Nugget equivalent?

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  1. Can you be more specific? What exactly do you think is lacking in the Bay Area? There are other stores b/w Whole Foods/Andronicos and Safeway/Lucky's. In the East Bay, there's Berkeley Bowl, which I find to be better quality than Safeway or Lucky's, but less expensive than Whole Foods and Andronico's, in general of course.

    I'm not as familiar with places in the city, but I'm pretty sure there are other options, but I'll let others chime in since its not my neck of the woods.

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        I've been to that Nob Hill and that actually fits the bill quite well. What I think is missing is a true "supermarket" that has at least some "gourmet" items and is inviting to shop in (which rules out the chaotic mess that is Berkeley Bowl) but still offers a full range of shopping, rather than just the high-end items of Andronico's or Whole Foods. I do realize this middle ground is hard to define, and YMMV - especially as to what makes a good shopping environment.

        Some of the renovated Safeways kind of fit this profile too. Still, if you've been to Nugget, or Ralphs Fresh Fare in SoCal, or Wegman's on the east coast - I think you'd be hard-pressed to name the equivalent here.

        1. re: Agent 510

          I agree that Berkeley Bowl is a chaotic mess most of the time, but seem to have found a niche when I can go and its not swamped (ie. Friday or Saturday evenings).

          1. re: chemchef

            The bowl really needs to put in a webcam so people can check the condition of the checkout lines before heading over.

            I live across the street and shop there probably five times a week. The trick is to go there at times which are really inconvenient for you, since they're likely to be inconvenient for everyone else too. Weekday mornings are a breeze. 3-4 weekday afternoons but get out before 4. Weekends if there's a major sporting event. Never go the day before or the day after a holiday -- thought the entire week after Thanksgiving it was a ghosttown in there. Another trick is to get there at a quarter to eight on a busy night, keep shopping after the "we're closed" announcement until the last person is going through the checkout, and then check out.

            1. re: uh ... art

              another "trick" is to park on adeline and walk 200 extra feet ... in dramatic
              contrast to the people who wait for 5 min in the middle of the parking lot
              rather than walk 50feet. a study by the RAND Corp showed that the BBowl parking lot has the highest concentration of bad drivers in
              northern ca.

              best of all is to park by crixa and pick up some fortifications for
              the walk to BBowl.

              i find the parking lot a lot more annoying than the lines inside.
              and at least they have 1+1 express lines ...unlike Costco.
              in fact Costco is probably the only store i go to regularly which i
              dislike going to, but that is mostly me ... it kinda depresses me to
              see the kinds of useless things people pick up on impulse there ...
              "honey, let's get this 3ft diameter wall clock that syncs to an ATOMIC
              clock in colorado for $34.95". but again, that just me and my personal anti-clutter demons.

              Well, since we're ranting ...
              To OP:
              --i dont understad your comment about "a place that is invitiing".
              i've almost always had polite butchers and cash register people etc.
              usually the annoying people are customers.
              --ok, i suppose i see what you mean about WF being pretentious
              ad expensive, but Andronicos? come on, isnt that sort of splitting hairs?
              i mean lots of students shop at the telegraph, shattuck and university
              branches. ok they may not have the cheep safeway sandwich meal
              deal etc but i think it has a pretty major overlap with safeway ...
              especially considering the wave of "poshification" a bunch of SF
              Safetyways are under going.

              of course groceries like foods co or food inc, whatever that cheep place
              is called, grocery outlet etc are horrible ambiance wise, but what do you expect. that's not why you go there. no free lunch etc.

              1. re: psb

                True, Andro's carries many of the same items as Safeway but the cost can be between 30-100% higher. I live in Berkeley and I see students there often, but I think it's just out of necessity and convenience, and I doubt any student uses it exclusively. That the University Ave. location is closing says a lot...despite no nearby competition, they couldn't do well because of their prices on basic items. On top of that, "luxury" items ($7 for a bag of Bear Naked granola?) make up enough of their stock that I consider Andro's a nichey gourmet market for the wealthy, rather than a supermarket.

                Finally, although it's hard to nail down what makes a place "inviting" and YMMV, Andro's inspired my rant because some of their stores just seem dingy and claustrophobic, surprisingly so for such an expensive place. Most Safeways and Luckys in the Bay aren't much better, and let's not even mention BBowl. Whole Foods is really good in terms of store factors (layout, newness, space, displays etc.) but I like how Nugget, Nob Hill and the renovated Safeways show that a mid-range chain can accomplish the same.

                1. re: Agent 510

                  Whatever the market is at the back of the El Cerrito Plaza shopping center is all shiny and big like out in the burbs. But the stuff they sell is crap.

                  Who says Andronico's is closing the University Ave. store?

                  I think it's slow because it's smaller than the Shattuck branch and Berkeley Bowl, which are as or more convenient to many of its potential customers.

                2. re: psb

                  As a student, I can decisively say that Andronico's is never where I would shop to save money. It lures you in with its gourmet items and pretentious, wealthy vibe it gives off, but it gets you in the end when your bag of groceries somehow cost twice as much as you expected. I mean come on, when does 1 pound of grapes cost $12 (That's a true story.. I had to put them back).

                  I would love a more local, organic, reasonable option than Safeway (And the Safeway in Rockridge still only has a ridiculously sad little supply of organic produce... definitely not "posh" by any means), but neither Whole Foods nor Andronico's supply that as they are way beyond my means.

                  1. re: tonyarose

                    sure, you might not go to the 'dron to save money, but
                    the fact that lots of students do shop there puts an implicit
                    limit on how much worse the prices are [or how much
                    better the "shopping experience is] because plenty of
                    students do shop at the southside and northside ones.
                    and in the case of the northside, clearly safeway is a
                    always an option [while in the case of the southside, the
                    college safeway and telegraph whole foods are a bit
                    out of walking range].

                    to the OP: maybe you should go to the spacious "super safeway"
                    at broadway/pleasant hill. i'd say it's the "most inviting" of the
                    berkeley/oakland "level 1" groceries :-)

                    1. re: tonyarose

                      Also a student and agree. I hate having to go to Andronico's for some special ingredient that I know I'll find there and don't have the time to hunt for (last time it was a packet of plain digestive biscuits and The Junket was closed... I paid $6 for something that is usually $3. sigh)

                      Tony, you've got to make the trek over to Berkeley Bowl. The parking lot makes me twitch, but they have everything you could possibly ever want and are reasonably priced. Really great produce section.

                      And, psb, my student friends refer to the southside andronico's as the 'ghetto one'... They never seem to be as well stocked as the three others and perhaps their products are geared toward students?

                      1. re: adrienne156

                        when i was a student [*] i mostly bought coke, ground beef and liquor
                        at the southside 'dron, so i suppose i'm sort of a data point
                        supporting your theory. nevertheless, it's a long way from actually
                        being "actually" ghetto [see certain cala foods, foods co, grocery
                        outlet etc].

                        we did once send a pod from bateau ivre to the 'dron next door
                        to buy a bottle of tequila while waiting forever for whatever we
                        ordered to arrive. i guess that was kinda ghetto.

                        [*] adrienne: kothay ha-re-ay gelo shonali bikel gulo ...

                        1. re: psb

                          It's not ghetto. It is the ghetto Andronico's of the four. I will not buy their produce.

                          LOL! I thought Bateau Ivre was more well-heeled than that?

                          [*]Rough translation for those of you who do not speak Bangla: 'Where did those golden dusks go...' Bangla is a very romantic language and there is a sense of loss ('kothay ha-re-ay gelo' = where did [they] get lost to) that unfortunately gets lost in translation. Beautiful spoken.

                          1. re: adrienne156

                            >It's not ghetto. It is the ghetto Andronico's of the four. I will not
                            yes, i appreciate your distinction.

                            >LOL! I thought Bateau Ivre was more well-heeled than that?
                            yes, again you'ld think so from the name and appearance.
                            at least on a couple of occasions it took so long to fill our
                            simple order, we were just flabbergasted. i think it took like
                            80min to get our food. and we thought we were out for a
                            spluge night. we never figured out what took every transaction
                            so long in an almost empty resto.

                            re: the bangla ... er, that was borrowed from manna dey.
                            but good comments. good background explanation
                            at the "more about this video" link at
                            [it's a famous bengali song about the "good old days"
                            of adda sessions at the the calcutta [sic] university coffeehouse
                            [see, there is a food connection]. now if you want to try to
                            explain "adda" feel free :-
                            )NYT: article on food and chat in kolkata:

                            1. re: psb

                              And while we're way over here in the right margin, a couple of more things about the Bowl that might make it more pleasant ... If you've got 15 or fewer things, no produce, and aren't using food stamps you can use the register over by the chinese food steam tables.

                              Never park in the Walgreens parking lot. They're out there booting people all the time (and while I'd never encourage others to refuse to shop at Walgreens for this unneighborly behavior, it certainly keeps me away).

                              The shopping carts at the bowl don't have those magic lock-up-when-leaving-the-parking-lot wheels so if you've parked in front of Crixa you can wheel your stuff right across the street. It's polite to take the cart back, though the retrieval truck makes a couple of passes every day.

                              Tuesday is generally not a good day. I'm not sure why but it might have to do with the farmers market happening a couple of blocks away.

                              They make breakfast burritos until about 10:30 and they're ridiculously huge enough to be breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack burritos and they're very good especially with a big dollop of the "hot" (not really) red sauce.

                              1. re: uh ... art

                                >Walgreens for this unneighborly behavior, it certainly keeps me away).
                                do you think they should put up a sign saying "berkley bowl
                                customers, please only park here when our parking lot is less
                                than 50% full"?

                                i'm sure they dont want to incur this additional expense and hassle
                                but come on, we all know what would happen if they didnt ...

                                i think you have to give them credit for putting up extensive
                                signage ... they at least arent trying to make money on parking
                                fines, but just deter what they reasonably would want to deter.

                                in fact the short little block of public street parking beween BBowl
                                and wallgreens is probably effectively an extension of the BBowl

                                1. re: psb

                                  >do you think they should put up a sign saying "berkley bowl
                                  >customers, please only park here when our parking lot is less
                                  >than 50% full"?

                                  I think that they should put up a sign saying "Welcome Bowl Customers! Come in and check out our large supply of toothpaste and aspirin!"

                                  But actually, I don't care what they do. What I care about is that you don't accidently park there and end up spending $60 more on the grocery trip than you planned.

                                  1. re: psb

                                    In an ideal world, they'd charge $5 to park in their lot...(free with $20 purchase, etc). It'd work out best for all concerned.

                      2. re: psb

                        I almost always park on the street -- in fact, I was at the Bowl Saturday afternoon and I found a place easily on Adeline next to Walgreens. I can't remember the last time (if ever) I had to park more than a block away, and since they let the carts out of the parking lot, it's no big deal.

                        I don't mind the lines at the Bowl too much -- I'm in awe of the checkers who are not only efficient but can identify the myriad variations on produce at a glance.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          What Ruth said! The checkers are amazingly fast and can (as mine did today) instantly tell the difference between CaraCara oranges, blood oranges and regular naval oranges, along with 2 Rio Star grapefruits and a medium pomelo. The lines also go quite fast.

                          My biggest woe are the produce and bin sections - especially the area around the squash and yams on one side and the bins on the other. I have, however, over the years developed the Berkeley Bowl Zen Approach - expect that it'll be crowded and that ditzy folks will stop and talk to each other, blocking the aisles and that kids will be grumpy or crying and that lots of carts will be parked right in front of the most popular bins. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly saying "I have the Berkeley Bowl Zen Attitude".

                          I also find that the best time to go is between 4:30 and 5 p.m. on weekdays. The afternooners are gone and the afterworkers haven't arrived.

                          1. re: oakjoan

                            My main rules at Berkeley Bowl are, never enter the parking lot, and always use a hand basket.

              2. Berkeley Bowl. They're going to build a second one to handle the demand.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Wow! Really? When... where?

                  The only thing I think that Andronico's beats them out on is having a regular medicine and bath section for those of us who don't use 100% holistic and/or organic frou-frou bath products. I hate that I have to go to at least two places to do all my shopping.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I'll believe it when I see it -- as that link shows, it's already well over two years in the planning process.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        I think the French American school is fighting it.

                        1. re: Glencora

                          The fight's been over for a while. It's currently under construction.


                          1. re: Glencora

                            French + Fighting?

                            Berkeley Bowl wins.

                            1. re: Brandon Nelson

                              What! You don't consider Charles Martel French?

                  1. Wal-Mart (American Canyon) – Boulangerie, fishmonger, greengrocer, pico de gallo rotisserie chicken, deli, Sterling Vintners Collection wines and the sushi chef

                    ... and you can even buy a house to cook your food in there ... at least get a mortgage.

                    1. What about Bristol Farms? Or is that higher end than what you are thinking of. I've never been to Nugget.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: farmersdaughter

                        bristol farms (at least the one in the westfield center) is even more overpriced then whole foods or andronicos. also, they don't have unionized workers, and there's usually protestors asking you not to shop there.

                        i like mollie stones, which is also overpriced, but perhaps a little less so then whole foods or andronicos.

                        1. re: shivani

                          I of course haven't done a formal study, but having lived in the city for damn-near ever, I believe the following to be true (keep in mind I have, for the past 14 years, bought virtually only organic): Andronico's, Whole Foods, and Mollies are the most expensive--even Cal-Mart has better prices (and is pleasant simply because of its old-fashioned look and feel); it also seems to carry virtually everything. I walked through Bristol once, when it first opened, and thought its prices seemed right up there. Although I guess it makes me somewhat of a hypocrite to patronize WF on occasion and TJ's as well, I do boycott Bristol because of its egregious anti-labor policies.

                          I do my toilet paper shopping at Marina Safeway, which is close to my home and more pleasant than many of its siblings.

                          I particularly dislike the SF Andronico's--I've never had anything but disappointing experiences there: outdated cheeses; products advertised but not available; no one around to accept a question or complaint; promises on the phone unkept on arrival; and what seems like way out-of-line pricing. I generally use milk as my measure.

                          I shop primarily at Rainbow, with in-between fill-in and specialty produce from Real Food. I also get certain items from TJ's.

                          On the rare occasion I buy organic meat/poultry--and for fish--I'm most likely to stop at WF on California. What irritates me most of all there is the dearth of organic produce and the need to strain one's neck and eyes--and block traffic as well--while attempting to find out which is which. I also dislike the reputation WF has as being organic (TJ's too), when the majority of items are not. Pure intentional propaganda IMO.

                          I have been to Wegman's and, though impressive, it's not a place I could imagine shopping in on a regular basis because it's way too big and, should one forget an item at one end of the store after going to the other, it would be too exhausting to go back.

                          I love food-shopping but confess the Brave New World lighting and feeling-tone of Wegman's also turned me off.

                          Don't think I've been to Ralph's Fresh--how new is it? The Ralph's I've been to have been pretty grim..

                          As a postscript, may I please add that one of the most endearing aspects of Chowhound has always been the tacit agreement that we express our preferences without denigrating others'.

                      2. I feel your pain. I moved from the Sacramento/Roseville area 3 years ago, only to see the Nugget Market open in Roseville. As for Nob Hill here in the Bay area (San Jose) no thank you, at least to the one in Santa Teresa. The floors are dirty, aisles are convoluted and narrow, and the arrangement of goods is haphazard at best. I can vouch for PW Markets. The down side is that there are only seven of them (I think) scattered around the area, but I love mine in the Almaden area of San Jose. A real, honest to goodness butcher and fishmonger, bakery on site, a fantastic deli, and some of the best produce I' ve seen short of going to a farmers market.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: lrostron

                          PW Super and Cosentino's are what you are looking for in the south bay. You might even like some of the big Asian markets - Ranch 99 for instance.

                          1. re: 512window

                            That's right, I forgot about Ranch 99, I went to the one in Fremont frequently for great seafood and Asian specialities. My Chinese New Year party was last weekend, and I sent the DH up the hill for what I needed there.

                            1. re: 512window

                              And on the peninsula, Piazza's, although I guess that's closer to Draeger's/Andronico's.

                              My feeling about the newer Safeways is that they don't have better food, just better lighting. I really hate Safeway, mostly because even in the bigger/newer ones the aisles are both narrow and tall, making them feel very closed in, which is compounded by the fact there's too much visual clutter.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                And in most (all?) Safeways, the deli sandwich station is right by the front door, so there's that line you have to fight to get into the store. Also, they have too many displays in the aisles...

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  I like stopping off at Piazza's for little things like bulk foods, meats, and prepared foods, but I refuse to pay $6 a pound for tomatoes. These days I find that I do most of my shopping at Farmer Joe's in Oakland. The new one on Fruitvale has a good selection of produce and meats and specialty items without (IMHO) being pretentious. If I only have time to go to one market, I just go there. I can get pretty much everything on my list.

                                  1. re: hummy

                                    I second Farmer Joe's. Prices are better then Whole Paycheck esp. for produce and selection is good. They did have a unionized worker issue too; does anyone know how that ended up? At least it is locally owned and only has 2 locations.

                              2. re: lrostron

                                I was in Castro Valley for a meeting today, and now I can vouch for PW Markets too. Really seems like a nice store that covers all the bases I mentioned, and the bakery and produce sections looked fabulous!

                                Too bad I don't live near one, but if you do (they're mostly in SJ, plus one in CV and one in Livermore) it's worth checking out if you've never been.

                              3. The Lunardi's stores in Walnut Creek and Danville might fit the bill. I haven't been to any other locations so I can't vouch for them, but they have a good produce department, very fresh, pretty good variety, several good bakeries represented, full service butcher and seafood dpt. No mood lighting etc. It's my regular go-to.

                                1. I think I know what you're saying; once I was in Fremont (to go to an Indian movie) and stopped in to the Raley's there. It's clean and BIG, big selection. Better than Safeway/Lucky stores in SF.

                                  1. The Safeway in the Marina not only has a bunch of parking, but has a pretty good produce section that I'll check out if I am down that way. But, I live near the Andronico's in the Inner Sunset and they are revamping it and it's already so much more user friendly!

                                    1. Trader Joes meets most of my weekly grocery-shopping needs (I buy my produce from a farmers market), and I'll bet (based on the lines) a lot of other people feel the same way, and use it as their primary grocery store. There aren't as many families with kids in the bay area, and there's more disposable income.

                                      Berkeley Bowl is amazing.

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: xanadude

                                        Count me in as another Trader Joe's/ Farmer's market shopper. I occasionally hit WF or Country Sun (health food store in Palo Alto) for tea and chocolate. I really prefer a very edited selection and a small store, rather than the huge number of things I don't buy at Safeway. Not that I'm the healthiest person, but I find that between choosing local/organic produce, eggs, and meat and buying minimally processed/additive laden foods, there just isn't that much for me at a bigger store.

                                        1. re: YSZ

                                          Exactly. People who complain about Trader Joe's don't get (or just don't like) the fact that it's an edited selection. At a conventional supermarket I have to hike down and around aisles and aisles of stuff I have no intention of buying, while at Trader Joe's there are very few things I wouldn't at least consider buying (mostly produce, which I wouldn't buy at Safeway, either). And if I don't like it, I can even take it back.

                                          For that matter, Costco is an edited selection as well.

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            Trader Joe's stocks around 90% things I'd never buy--gross and expensive packaged food, crappy produce, perhaps the world's worst tortillas and tortilla chips.

                                            But the prices on and quality of the remaining 10% make it worthwhile.

                                            Exactly like Costco.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Well if that's true, then Safeway must stock about 99 percent things you'd never buy.

                                              I happen to love the round organic tortilla chips -- to me they have just the right balance of corn flavor and crisp texture. I never buy tortillas there, though, so I can't comment.

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                Safeway stocks 100% items I never buy.

                                                Used to be 99.99999% until Trader Joe's started carrying peanut butter that's better than Adams.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  Boy, your shopping cart must be pretty interesting!

                                                  All of TJ's brand items are just Whole Foods (and others) items with a TJ's label on it.

                                                  I do 90% of my shopping at farmer's markets, yet there's still always a few things to get at grocery stores... so I can see the value of this thread.

                                                  1. re: chemchef

                                                    Some of Trader Joe's products are house-labeled (e.g. in the Bay Area their cream-top organic milk comes from Straus).

                                                    And they carry brand-name products, such as Plugra butter and Ak-Mak crackers.

                                                    But they also develop many of their own products, which you won't find anywhere else. Or anywhere, if TJ's decides to drop them.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      I worked for TJ's for 5+ years. They do work with other companies to develop products, they do not develop their own. They don't have any food manufacturing facilities. However, most of the products are not "their own".

                                                      1. re: chemchef

                                                        TJ's doesn't manufacture its own stuff, but the company does send staff people to work with vendors to develop exclusive products that you will not find anywhere else:


                                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Once again, all taste is subjective. Someone liked TJ's tortillas.

                                        2. I moved to the Bay Area from Saint Paul in 1992 and was shocked at the poor state of grocery shopping here. In 1992, nearly all Minnesota supermarket chains, from the posh ones to the warehouse stores, were open 24/7 (I hear that the high-end one has now cut back and closes between 1 and 5 AM), and even the bag-it-yourself warehouse chain Cub was clean, well-lit, and a pleasure to shop in if you didn't mind sharing the aisles with the occasional family that had six kids under the age of 5 trying to out-scream each other. I never saw stuff on the shelves that had passed its sell-by date, which happens to me all the time at Andronico's.

                                          That said, I do like Mollie Stone's when I can get to one. I like Whole Foods, the Bowl, and Trader Joe's but their refusal to carry certain necessities of daily life (i.e. diet Coke) makes them not a one-stop shopping experience. I want to check out the Alameda Nob Hill.

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: Nina

                                            I agree with the OP. I rarely do any traditional supermarket shopping, but Nugget is a nice store, and if we had one, I'd probably go from time to time. The price point is totally different than Andronico's or similar. Further, you can't compare BB to Nugget. Nugget is a pleasant shopping experience. You don't need to wear body armor. Your cart won't be moved for you if you blink.

                                            Much of the made in-store product is appealing, although probably not of the same ingredient quality that we're used to here. When I see what a "nice store" the El Cerrito Plaza Lucky's has become, and then I look at the made-in-house crap, I wonder why we can't support a Nugget-esque store. I don't think Raley's/Nob Hill comes close. None of the other suggestions here are in the same league (I don't mean a better or worse league, I just mean a different league) than Nugget stores.

                                            1. re: lmnopm

                                              Hmmm...after seeing all this discussion, I guess another reason we don't see a Nugget-esque store here is that the Bay Area has a different culture, and what's seen as a godsend in Sacramento may not be viewed as such here.

                                              A lot of the customers such a store would target here, tend to have really high standards when it comes to ingredients, favoring items a Nugget or Nob Hill may ultimately be limited in its ability to provide.

                                              We also tend to favor smaller, more "local" outlets like farmers markets and places like Rainbow. There are precious few places in the U.S. where these outlets thrive, so my intentions are NOT to knock this. In much of the U.S., virtually 100% of the population shops in supermarkets.

                                              Parts of the Bay Area also tend to harbor a slight distrust of anything corporate, which you don't find in other cities. Open a big new shiny grocery store in the Midwest, and everyone welcomes it with open arms. Here, people tend to be on guard.

                                              As for Nugget being a "pleasant shopping experience", well, that's not so much the norm here, and so that's not a strike against a store for most people, whereas a Davis-ite would immediately recoil in horror at Berkeley Bowl's riot scene.

                                              These comments apply more to SF/Berkeley/Oakland than the rest of the Bay Area, but even the Bay Area as a whole is different from places where Nugget-style markets thrive, and its shoppers are a different breed. Not better, not worse, just different.

                                              1. re: Agent 510

                                                Can someone summarize what exactly does this store called Nugget provide ? Is it just 'Wal Mart'-like convenience ?

                                                1. re: osho

                                                  I have been reading this thread with some entertainment. Nugget is very much NOT Wal Mart-like in any way shape or form.

                                                  There are a total of eight locations, with a couple of them just opening in the last year or so. It's a family owned chain. I'd say that Nugget is similar to Andronico's. It's just that the majority of Nugget stores are newer. There is also a big emphasis in the store on presentation, lighting and cleanliness.

                                                  A friend of mine was very excited to have the Roseville area store open near her. Now that it's been open for awhile, it's been interesting to compare the differences. So while I'd say the stores are similar, they are not identical. I assume that they are catering to what they think are the differences between the areas.

                                                  The larger Davis store is my local market. It's been open since 2000. I moved into a new house and the market opened that same month (talk about great timing!) It's somewhere between 40000-50000 square feet, similar to the Andronico's I've been in. The closest WF is about 20 miles away in Sacramento, and is of a similar size.

                                                  I love going to and checking out markets whenever I am on the road. I agree that shopping at this Nugget is a much better than average market experience. You can shop for all the regular grocery stuff at competitive prices, as well as specialty sections that have helpful knowledgeable people: cheese, wine, bakery, meat, fish, produce. I don't think the store is perfect, but the people who work there really do seem to care and appreciate feedback.

                                            2. re: Nina

                                              To be fair, I should have acknowledged that it's probably a lot easier to have a big yet nice and semi-upscale supermarket with great service in a place like the Twin Cities (or Davis) than in the Bay Area. It's a really difficult, low-margin business to start with, and on top of that, land and real estate are scarcer here, and the high cost of living makes it harder to hire those smiling employees who keep the floors spotless.

                                              1. re: Agent 510

                                                That's pretty much it...overhead is hell in the Bay Area, real estate-wise and downward. Hey at least it hasn't turned into Manhattan yet.

                                                Any way, given the all the farmer's markets, Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market (in one city), plus the artisan stuff available, it's hard to complain about things. Listen to you guys.

                                                1. re: ML8000

                                                  ML8000, I could not agree with you more.

                                                  We live in the city, and our regulars are FPFM, (sometimes Alemany) and WF and maybe Mollie's for last minute stuff. I really don't understand what one cannot obtain from all of these three places combined.

                                                  1. re: ML8000

                                                    I'm not complaining so much as it would be nice to have an additional option. Believe me, we have it good around here.

                                              2. Got to throw in a pitch for Diablo Foods. 2 locations that I know of - in Concord, and in Lafayette. Have been to the one in Lafayette innumerable times, and can say that while small in comparison to other groceries, they have nearly everything a chowhound could want, reasonably speaking, that is. Great friendly service, decent tho not out of whack prices, and a fantastic selection of things. Meat counter superb!

                                                Am living in Concord now, and make weekly trips to the Nob Hill close to Ygnacio Valley, on Oak Grove. It has wonderfully wide aisles, caring, friendly service, a selection of variety meats as well as more standard fare, and some oddball items in addition to gourmet and classic items. Chef BoyarDee Pizza in a box, anyone?!

                                                1. I was going to suggest Bi-Rite, which I used to go to a lot when I lived in the city. Maybe too small, too crazy, or too expensive... but other than that, it's exactly what you're describing!

                                                  1. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Rainbow, which I've become a fan of. WF range (save for non-vegetarian items) and quality at much better prices; employee owned and RUN; and across the board 10% discount for seniors (that's me) and card-carrying bicyclists (you?).

                                                    27 Replies
                                                    1. re: Xiao Yang

                                                      I don't think the prices differ much between WF and Rainbow for products like milk, yogurt, eggs ,OJ. I used to drag my wife to Rainbow to buy quite a few products, until I realized prices were very much comparable, and in some cases, more than those at WF.

                                                      The only place where Rainbow beats WF hands down is the bulk produce section. I think they have the best selection of bulk foods at amazing prices. Another thing here I like here is the gallon container of Strauss Non Homogenized milk, Mollie's or WF do not carry this item.

                                                      1. re: osho

                                                        Yes, and you can include nut butters in that bulk foods category; I'm big on those. The fact that they either beat or match WF on almost every front that is represented in both stores, makes the ownership/politics issue (which I won't go into) an even larger factor in voting with my feet. I wouldn't buy meat from WF in any event, so going to Rainbow instead is a no-brainer, even though it's harder to get to on public transportation.

                                                        1. re: osho

                                                          No way! I went to Whole Foods the other day and it was like $1 more for juice 1/2 gallons, eggs, cheese milk, etc.

                                                          1. re: rjf

                                                            It depends on which brands you buy.

                                                            1. re: chemchef

                                                              Chemchef is right. It absolutely does matter which brands you buy. I often buy the 365 brand of organic apple juice, milk, butter, and cheese pizza. The prices are comparable to Safeway, except that I can't find organic apple juice at Safeway. So, the price of that item is comparable to Trader Joe's.

                                                              ETA: Eggs are now pretty expensive everywhere, including Safeway.

                                                              1. re: Atomica

                                                                I've had the very same experience.

                                                                So, since I prefer organic (whenever possible/affordable) I would usually choose to shop at Whole Foods over Safeway, given that choice. I somehow also feel better about giving my hard-earned money to Whole Foods than Safeway.

                                                                1. re: chemchef

                                                                  Whole Foods is a Texas-based public corporation. Safeway is a Bay Area Based public corporation. They are both ultimately responsible to their stockholders, not their customers or employees. If you've been to Safeway lately, you've found that they have as diverse a range of organics in their "O" line as WF does in their "365" line. Not only that, but Safeway's employees appear to come from the same planet as I do.

                                                                  You pays yer money and you makes yer choice.

                                                                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                                                                    Organic produce at Safeway is insanely expensive. The employees there are generally nice, I'll give you that, but the food at my local Safeway (Albany) is overpriced and awful.

                                                                    1. re: Glencora

                                                                      Produce at my Safeway is expensive period. We get ours in Chinatown (we use mostly Asian produce, anyway). I was referring to the packaged house brand organics, which are pretty comparable in quality and price.

                                                                      1. re: Xiao Yang

                                                                        Have you looked at the ingredients list on the milk at Safeway? Last time I was there, I couldn't find any milk that
                                                                        a) didn't have growth hormones
                                                                        b) didn't have dehydrated milk added
                                                                        c) was organic
                                                                        that was anywhere close to the 3-4 bucks a half gallon at Rainbow. The closest I got was one with dehydrated milk added, and of course after knowing it was in there I could taste it.

                                                                        Safeway used to carry Clover milk, but last time I was there they didn't. Good tasting, reasonable price for the quality, hormone free, local...

                                                                        1. re: SteveG

                                                                          Actually, Clover's organic fat-free milk also contains milk powder.

                                                                          Rainbow's recent regular price has been $3.19 but it's often on sale and, of course, the store offers various groups 10% discounts as well as providing 20%-off coupons in the phone book valid on certain days of the month 4 or 5 times a year.

                                                                          I dont think I could ever have switched to fat-free (skim) milk if it hadn't been for Clover! A superior product.

                                                                          1. re: Fine

                                                                            What is sad, sort of, is that Wal-Mart has organic milk for about $2.50

                                                                            1. re: Fine

                                                                              I always thought I was a milk snob - and I am somewhat lactose intolerant so I don't even drink that much milk. But recently my 6 year old in completely blind "taste tests" will only drink Clover milk. The person at the grocery store thought I was insane when I accidentally picked up another brand, and had to run back to switch it out!

                                                                              1. re: jsaimd

                                                                                That's how I feel about Strauss milk... I was never much of a milk drinker until I discover Strauss. It tastes the way I always thought milk should taste.

                                                                                1. re: chemchef

                                                                                  Too bad the Straus milk is chunky. We only buy whole milk because we have a toddler, but a little kid can't drink Straus milk out of a bottle. I'm pretty shocked to hear about the milk powder in the other milks--guess I never looked at the label, but then again, I don't buy skim.

                                                                                  jsaimd, I love your story.

                                                                                  1. re: Atomica

                                                                                    Chunky? Hmm, I've never had chunky milk from them. You should probably return it if you get chunky milk.

                                                                                    1. re: chemchef

                                                                                      What I mean is the "cream top." That makes for a chunky milk.


                                                                                      1. re: Atomica

                                                                                        Not if you scoop it out with a spoon and eat it like I do! Its so delicious!

                                                                      2. re: Xiao Yang

                                                                        I know, I realize that they're both large corporations, but my Whole Foods feels less like a large corporation and more like a neighborhood market. Besides, they just have more things that I care to buy. Having said that, I don't buy a whole lot at grocery stores anyway. I buy all my produce except bananas (organic, fair-trade) at farmer's markets, and I rarely buy any processed, or canned foods. Safeway doesn't carry most of the things I buy, either that or they're way too expensive, so its just not worth my while.

                                                                        "Not only that, but Safeway's employees appear to come from the same planet as I do."

                                                                        That's funny, I feel that way about the employees at Whole Foods, not Safeway.

                                                            2. re: Xiao Yang

                                                              Rainbow has great bulk grains, legumes, and herbs; their cheese and dairy products aren't bad. Their produce selection's not terribly exciting, and their prices across the board are closer to bi-rite than to trader joes.

                                                              But yeah, definitely worth mentioning.

                                                              1. re: xanadude

                                                                On second thought, Rainbow's cheese selection is pretty good. And at very different prices compared to WF.

                                                                1. re: osho

                                                                  The people working in Rainbow's cheese department are generally knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. I realize that this description doesn't necessarily hold for other parts of the store at times.

                                                                  1. re: maigre

                                                                    I've had mainly very friendly help in all departments at Rainbow, and the cheese people are friendly, delightful, and super enthusiastic about their department (and rightfully so--I think it's absolutely stellar). I like their wine selection--small but well thought out. The milk prices are decent (a loss leader for them, I'm guessing?) My only beef with Rainbow is: Why, gods, why?! can't they sell me a cup of coffee? Apparently, they've been discussing it for eons and can't decide what to do about that.

                                                                    1. re: Atomica

                                                                      Atomica, totally agree with your observations on the cheese dept at Rainbow. If I may make a recommendation, if you like cheddar, try this one from Wisconsin called Widemar's - aged for 2 years. Bit of a limited supply though. Absolutely yummy on it's own or paired with Newcastle Brown Ale.

                                                                      1. re: osho

                                                                        I do appreciate the recommendation. Rainbow often has some hard-to-find cheeses, something that is out for only a few weeks a year, etc. I'm thinking of a gorgeous blue they had me try a couple of months ago. They're great at giving recommendations and samples.

                                                                    2. re: maigre

                                                                      I am surprised to hear this. The absolute best customer service I've had - has been at Rainbow, in my experience. The worst has been at the California St WF. I refuse to shop there. Period.

                                                                      1. re: osho

                                                                        I like Rainbow for that special pre-dot com, in your face, self-absorbed hipster SF vibe. Really. That and International Worker's Day is a holiday.

                                                              2. Yes, I agree with you 100%. I do my shopping in *at least* 20 different places.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Atomica

                                                                  old thread on the 22nd and Irving produce market: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/334870

                                                                  too bad it's no longer dirt cheap, when I lived on 19th Ave. in 1990/91 I used to stock up for a week of produce for $20 bucks or less (2 or more FULL bags). I made all of jack-squat in wages those days - saved my life.

                                                                2. You need to find one of the old school Italian markets, which are sadly disappearing. Cosentino's, Lunardi's, Zanotto's. Mollie Stone's is good too. But let's face it, nobody can compete with the big chains on the prices for paper products, toothpaste, stuff like that.
                                                                  Truth to tell, I buy my meat and produce at farmers markets. But it's easy for me, I'm a single guy, not trying to feed a family.
                                                                  When I moved from the city to the penninsula I used to go to the Cosentino's in Santa Clara. The guys there got to know me right away. They told me what was good and what wasn't. They wouldn't sell anybody a piece of fish that was past it or a piece of meat that wasn't up to par. They had pride in their work and cared about their customers. They looked out for us. I'm sad to see that go.

                                                                  1. Since this rant was posted, I've shopped at the Nob Hill in Alameda a couple of times. While it is hardly the all-things-to-all-people grocery store of my dreams, it is worth a visit for homesick Midwesterners because it's more like Lunds or Byerly's than anything else I've encountered in California. In large part, I think it seems unusually pleasant only because it's new; after it gets a bit dingy and worn it probably won't be better than a good Safeway. However, the staff were all extremely friendly and it is the only California store I've been to where the checkers unload your cart, which is very Midwestern. They have a very large range of canned, packaged, and frozen foods, so if you've been looking for a particular flavor or brand of something that smaller stores won't carry, you might want to check it out. The deli and bakery sections were relatively small. If you spend $50-$100 you get a ten-cent discount at their gas station, and if you spend more than $100 you get a 25-cent discount.

                                                                    23 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Nina

                                                                      The checkers unload carts at many Trader Joe's too.

                                                                      1. re: chemchef

                                                                        I've seen this at every TJ's I've been to, in fact, and I've shopped at 9 or 10 different TJ's in 4 states (2 East Coast, 2 West Coast) over a period of 14+ years. The configuration of the checkstand more or less dictates this.

                                                                        Maybe Midwestern grocery stores tend to have checkstands set up differently from stores in other parts of the country?

                                                                        1. re: hohokam

                                                                          This is actually one of the reasons I have stopped shopping at Safeway. I get irritated when I not only have to unload my cart, and they try to individually bag in plastic every single item, but then they won't put anything back in the cart. Just leave it on the end of the station while I struggle to fit everything in. And don't get me started on the "remove flats of water" from under the cart business.

                                                                          1. re: oaktowngirl

                                                                            I only do a little bit of my shopping at Safeway (for foil, Ziplocs, and such). I find that they will not only use the bags I bring in, but they also will offer to help me out to the car with my bags. Frankly, given Safeway's corporate policies that seem to dictate over-the-top faux friendliness, I'm surprised you aren't offered the same level of service.

                                                                            Personally, I don't care who unloads my cart, bags my groceries, or who puts the loaded bags in my cart, as long as it is done with some care and common sense. If I end up doing it all, that's OK with me. In fact, I tend to feel at loose ends when I shop at stores where everything is done for me.

                                                                            1. re: oaktowngirl

                                                                              At the Safeways I go to, they ask *everyone* if they need help out to their car (at which point they would help you unload everything), and they put bags into the cart. Maybe this is new since you stopped shopping at Safeway. Also, I'm in SF, so there are no plastic bags.

                                                                              1. re: Atomica

                                                                                Sometimes they ask when I only have one item. I know I am a senior citizen but I made it to the check by myself.

                                                                                1. re: wolfe

                                                                                  It's Safeway policy to ask everyone if they need help. You could be a 20-y.o. longshoreman and they'd still ask you.

                                                                                  Oddly I heard a story about how someone was annoyed by them always asking, that as a 30-something fit person it was sort of dumb. Another 30-something fit guy then said he thought the same until one time he had a screwed up back, on meds and they asked and he said, okay...and it was great. He said he'd go back.

                                                                                  Raley's and Nob Hill will not only ask, but they'll assume you want help. Nothing wrong with any of this. These places obviously want your business.

                                                                                  1. re: ML8000

                                                                                    I carried my bread from the bread aisle to the register holding it gingerly by the nape of the bag, as the mother bread carries her kitten, without a cart. If I needed help I would ask. This automatic response stuff with one item seems silly.

                                                                                    1. re: wolfe

                                                                                      I get the "help ya out to the car?" question all the time. What I am peeved about is the utter lack of grocery store service while I am buying stuff. I would like them to concentrate on the shopping and checking out part of the transaction. I have the transportation to and fro part covered.

                                                                                      1. re: oaktowngirl

                                                                                        Lord no. You don't want Safeway going back to in-store service. They had this thing a few years back where it seemed each employee had to ask everyone they passed if they could help them. It was really, really ... really annoying. I remember one Thanksgiving when I had to shop at a 24 hour store at 4 in the morning and being asked a dozen times in that empty store if I wanted help ... and that in a chirpy, cheerful way ... at 4 in the morning when I had just flown back from work in Mexico and without sleep was trying to put together a Thanksgiving dinner. No, no ... PLEASE ignore me.

                                                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                                                          I hear you. Actually, I liked it when my local Safeway hired mostlymentally handicapped people as baggers and store aids. It was hard not being friendly back when they asked you if you needed any help.

                                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                                            I dunno -- when I can't reach something on the top shelf, I could use someone coming along and asking to help.

                                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                              Agreed -- and I have this problem frequently!

                                                                                            2. re: rworange

                                                                                              I hate how they have to show you where the item is. I was told this is a policy. No - you can just TELL me. I can find aisle 6 on my own - thank you... Way too helpful. I actually did a price comparison and found for everyday stuff we shop for Safeway was not cheaper or only minimally cheaper for the brands i buy and I really don't like the menlo park store, so I never shop there. I shop at Andronicos for quick trips because I can walk there, Whole Foods for specialty items and gluten free stuff and TJs for some special items. Produce comes from CSAs.

                                                                                              1. re: jsaimd

                                                                                                Are you talking about Safeway? The one time I've asked for something (mincemeat for a pie) I was told that if they had it at all, it would be in the holiday section which I finally located next to the magazines. There was no mincemeat among the sad collection of powdered mashed potatoes, canned cranberry sauce and boxed stuffing mix, but I wasted a good ten minutes looking.

                                                                                                1. re: Glencora

                                                                                                  A request for sauerkraut also completely stumps 95% of Safeway staff. I'm sure I can think of a few other things I've asked for over the last couple of years that they've never heard of.

                                                                                                  1. re: Atomica

                                                                                                    Bottled, canned or in plastic bags, like Boars Head?

                                                                                                    1. re: Atomica

                                                                                                      That reminds me of the time I asked the folks at Lucky's (before it was Albertson's, not after) if they had any currents and they just looked at me blankly.

                                                                                                      I'm surprised you couldn't find any mincemeat at Safeway, Glencora -- Nob Hill had at least two different kinds in their holiday display. But then again, I'm not, because I had a really hard time finding curry powder at Safeway. Not only did they not have the Chinese curry powder I've always bought at the supermarket (and which I ended up buying at Lucky's, after it was Albertson's, not before <g>), but their spice selection in general was beyond pitiful. And this was in one of their new "lifestyle" mega-Safeways.

                                                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                        I'm not what Chinese curry powder you get at Safeway, but the one my wife favors is pretty much straight Madras in composition. It's orders of magnitudes cheaper in Chinese markets.

                                                                                                        Maybe you would have had better luck at Lucky if you'd asked for "currants" instead of "currents" ;-)

                                                                              2. re: Nina

                                                                                During my 14 years in the Midwest, Chicago area, my grocery carts were never unloaded for me.

                                                                                1. re: Nina

                                                                                  I think the checkstands at that Nob Hill are constructed weirdly, which may be why they unload for you.

                                                                                  Someone asked how Ralph's Fresh Fare is. It's another store I had in mind when I made the original post. I used to live right near one in West L.A. and it was terrific, even though Regular Ralphs isn't as good. Actually I think L.A. is full of great grocery options the Bay Area can't quite match, between Ralph's Fresh, Pavilions, Gelson's, and Bristol Farms (the latter two are at the Andronico's/WF price point but are at least bigger/nicer and a little more varied in selection). On the plus side, at least we haven't had a long grocery strike like they had down there...

                                                                                  1. re: Agent 510

                                                                                    It does come down to the design of the check stands. I once did some work related to grocery stores and you'd semi-amazed at many types of check stand set-up there are. The big industrial ones can take up a lot of room. The ones that allow a cart to pass through would take even more room. Given the cost of real estate, low profit margins w/ groceries, my guess is that many big chains went with slimmer/narrower set-ups.

                                                                                    Re: LA, I think the ability and willingness to drive to better stores keeps the competition sharper in LA. You have many more options. In the Bay Area, it seems the number of stores were set back in the '70s despite growth.

                                                                                2. i wonder if somewhere on the InterWeb is a forum for grocery store owners and
                                                                                  employees ranting about Bay Area grocery shoppers.

                                                                                  1. I originally posted this some time ago but inadvertently made a reference to a no-no thus causing it to be pulled. That's why it's so late!

                                                                                    I of course haven't done a formal study, but having lived in the city for damn-near ever, I believe the following to be true (keep in mind I have, for the past 14 years, bought virtually only organic): Andronico's, Whole Foods, and Mollies are the most expensive--even the "socialites' fave" Cal-Mart has better prices (and is pleasant simply because of its old-fashioned look and feel); it also seems to carry virtually everything. I walked through Bristol once, when it first opened, and thought its prices seemed right up there with the other three.

                                                                                    I do my "toilet paper shopping" at Marina Safeway, which is close to my home and more pleasant than many of its siblings. It has a huge conventional and a small organic produce section.

                                                                                    I particularly dislike the SF Andronico's--I've never had anything but disappointing experiences there: outdated cheeses; products advertised but not available; no one around to accept a question or complaint; promises on the phone unkept on arrival; and what seems like way out-of-line pricing. I generally use milk as my measure.

                                                                                    I shop primarily at Rainbow, with in-between fill-in and specialty produce from Real Food. I also get certain items from TJ's.

                                                                                    On the rare occasion I buy organic meat/poultry--and for fish--I'm most likely to stop at WF on California, less often at Mollie Stone's, also on California, which was where I bought my fish for mayny years when it was Grand Central and still buy my gefilte fish-makings. What irritates me most of all at WF is the dearth of organic produce and the need to strain one's neck and eyes--and block traffic as well--while attempting to find out which is which. I also dislike the reputation WF has as being organic (TJ's too), when the majority of items are not. Pure intentional propaganda IMO. In fairness, I do buy--often by the case--a few of its house brand organic items, particularly the whole wheat linguine. When one is accustomed to--I was going to say "a place like Rainbow" but I suspect it's unique--virtually everything being organic, it's annoying, to say the least, to see other stores, with well under 50%, referred to in the same breath.

                                                                                    I have been to Wegman's and, though impressive, it's not a place I could imagine shopping in on a regular basis because it's way too big and, should one forget an item at one end of the store after going to the other, it would be too exhausting to go back.

                                                                                    I love food-shopping but confess the Brave New World lighting and feeling-tone of Wegman's also turned me off.

                                                                                    Don't think I've been to Ralph's Fresh--how new is it? The Ralph's I've been to have been pretty grim..

                                                                                    As a postscript, may I please add that one of the most endearing aspects of Chowhound has always been the tacit agreement that we express our preferences without denigrating others'. I may express my preference for whole grain, low fat, and/or organic, but I don't feel it's up to me to comment on others' choices, favorably or unfavorably, except on the rare occasion where I might explain why mine differed.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Fine

                                                                                      Let's not forget that Prather Ranch was founded, and is still owned, by Walter Ralphs, head of Ralphs Supermarket.....

                                                                                    2. I often shop at Cal-Mart and Andronico; they are clean and produce is better. (I'm hooked on Cal-Mart's celery -- I don't know why it tastes so much better.) Recently I jotted down prices of things I often get and noticed that usually Cal-Mart was .70 more per item -- that can really add up so I'm going to do more shopping at Andronico. (A. has the wonderful Tom Wilson oranges right now, only time I really buy oranges -- try them.) I dislike Safeway, Lucky, Mollie Stone and Rainbow you have to fight to get into the lot and it's only veg and produce is not as good as Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market (I live in SF so Berkeley is not very convenient for me). For tp, etc. Target in Colma has best prices (for my brand) and I stock up so I don't have to go so often.

                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: walker

                                                                                        Have you tried Golden Produce on Church for produce? I fell back in love with vegetables from what I've bought from them.

                                                                                        Golden Produce
                                                                                        172 Church St, San Francisco, CA

                                                                                        1. re: Atomica

                                                                                          Atomica, which ones do you recommend? I can't pass up on this opportunity, being so close to my house ....

                                                                                          1. re: osho

                                                                                            I don't get there all that often, but a few weeks ago it was green beans and brussels sprouts. I'm wondering if they have gotten some favas in now.

                                                                                        2. re: walker

                                                                                          JFTR, we have been shopping on a weekly basis at Monterey Market for almost 20 years. However the last three or four times, I have been very disappointed with some of the produce I've brought home. Maybe I wasn't paying much attention for a while. Onions we bought were practically unusable within a couple of days, grapefruits rotten before the end of the week, among other things.

                                                                                          Has anyone else noticed a precipitous drop in the Market's quality of offerings recently?

                                                                                          FWIW, we've started going to the Berkeley Bowl instead on our regular Saturday shopping jaunts now and have been very pleased with the quality of the produce. The seafood pales next to Tokyo Fish though.

                                                                                          1. re: kevine

                                                                                            I threw away a rotten onion from MM today. Maybe it's the time of the year? Last year's onions? The apples were mushy, too, but then again they're not exactly in season. The small leeks were great. I think you just have to pay attention when you shop there.

                                                                                            1. re: Glencora

                                                                                              Occasionally I shop at Andronico's in the Sunset, and I find the prices extremely high. I have gotten more 'rotten' produce there, than from any place else. I popped in a few weeks ago and saw the revamping in progress, but I have no idea what it looks like now.

                                                                                              Mollie Stone's on Portola is very convenient, and I do shop there maybe once a week, but I cringe at their prices and my husband hates going in because of the narrow aisles. They do have a wonderful array of products and often things that I can't find elsewhere.
                                                                                              Their tube tomato paste is about l/2 the price of Williams Sonoma.

                                                                                              I end up doing a lot of my shopping at UGH ... Bell/Cala on 24th Street. Not my favorite place and not cheap either, but soooo convenient, and they almost always have Acme Sour Batard.

                                                                                              I _used_ to think that Rainbow was expensive but I have begun to shop there more often. I love their bulk bin items, cheese dept., bakery goods and their Straus' milk is the lowest price I have found, and on top of that I get 10% senior discount every day. Of course I can't get meat/poultry there, so I can't do a complete shop.

                                                                                              NOW DON'T LAUGH....I do market research and on several occasions I have had jobs at Food4Less on 15th and Folsom (across and down the street from Rainbow). They are owned by Ralph's and some of their prices are just as high if not higher than other chain supermarkets. I bought milk there one day, and then had to go to Bell for something right afterwards and saw that the same milk at Bell was actually about 55 cents cheaper. Food4Less has great 'specials' on canned foods, bottled juices etc. Recently, Dole Pineapple in it's own juice and Ocean Spray grapefruit juice were both about half price. I stock up when I see 'MY brands/products' on special.

                                                                                              Food4Less has excellent produce and the bins are constantly being restocked. Prices are a little lower than average but the main thing is the selection and quality.

                                                                                              BUT ... I love their meat. Yes, I have gotten some of the best beef there. I have been buying their New Zealand Lamb chops, two to a package for approx., $5.50 a pound and believe me, it is excellent quality. Also their rib eye steaks tender and flavorful - unlike a lot of what I have gotten elsewhere - including high priced 'meat markets'.

                                                                                              A lot of their packaged meat is in bulk, so sometimes it is hard to find small a amount for two people. I don't shop there to save $$, I really really appreciate the quality of their meat and produce. The price is an added bonus. The workers are plentiful and very helpful. If you are at Rainbow - pop in, it isn't a 'scary' place and the store is clean. Easy access to their parking lot - unlike Rainbow.

                                                                                              Sorry for cramming so much into this post.